Mobile-first is not the future

There’s plenty of rhetoric out there, blog posts just like this one, that claim that mobile-first is the future and that good product design must be mobile-first.

The problem with mobile-first principles is that they are based in the assumption that the future will contain masses of people browsing on mobile phones. And the problem with every theory about the future is that the future happens, and then the future is the past.

As Wayne Gretzky told his son:

“Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”

Today is March 16th, 2016. Today, mobile usage is going up, new apps are still gaining traction and popularity, so why be cynical? While herds of companies are racing to catch up with mobile interfaces, something else is happening.

Devices that have an invisible, audio-only interface are gaining traction at a faster, more aggressive pace. After a somewhat rocky start, the Amazon Echo just added two new members to the family.

Augmented reality is getting closer to delivering successfully to the consumer market. Valued privately at $4.5B, Magic Leap is the biggest company you’ve never heard of. Some say Magic Leap is overvalued, but not if you compare it to the billions of smart phones that are sold every year.

With terms like “Text Claw” and “Smartphone Thumb” now being used as terms to denote health injuries from smartphone overuse, it’s only a matter of time before humans en-masse switch to easier ways to communicate with their devices and each other.

The next interface will not be mobile-first. The next interface will not have buttons, and taps or swipes. It will not come with an instruction manual, but will instead adapt to humans — through sounds, vision, and/or movement. Because the next interfaces will be so natural, that like breathing you forget you are using them.

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